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Our pond attracts all kinds of wildlife. What can you tell us about snapping turtles? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Our pond attracts all kinds of wildlife. What can you tell us about snapping turtles?

Q: Our pond attracts all kinds of wildlife. What can you tell us about snapping turtles?

Gail – South Boston, VA

A: Healthy ponds do tend to attract all types of creatures to your backyard, some more desirable than others. Snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) are large freshwater turtles that make their homes in ponds and streams with plenty of room and food. When encountered in the water, they typically slip quietly away from any disturbance – but because they can have fierce dispositions, it’s a good idea to get to know these shelled reptiles and their habits a little better.

How to Identify
Snapping turtles have a look all its own. Resembling a prehistoric dinosaur, the snapping turtle has a large, muscular build with a rigid carapace (hard shell) that can grow up to 18 inches. They usually weigh between 10 to 35 pounds. Its most defining features, however, is it’s long, flexible neck and beak-like mouth used to snap prey and defend itself from predators.

What They Eat
This omnivore’s preferred meals include just about anything it can capture and swallow, including aquatic plants, invertebrates, fish, frogs, reptiles, birds and small mammals. Snapping turtles also clean-up your pond by consuming carrion (or dead animals). In a farm or swimming pond, a snapping turtle might snap up some undesirable visitors, like snakes.

Nocturnal Activity
A snapping turtle is mostly active at night, but it does venture out during the day to bask on fallen logs and scavenge and hunt for food. When C. serpentine is on dry land, it can be aggressive, particularly when it feels threatened – and this is when you should avoid contact at all costs. A snap from a snapping turtle can be painful!

Remove & Relocate
If a snapping turtle is causing problems in your pond, your best bet is to safely and humanely remove it. Grabbing its shell with your hands is a bad idea; it can easily stretch its neck back across its own shell to its hind feet and snap your fingers, and it can scratch you with its sharp claws.

Instead, trap it in a turtle trap, like a Tomahawk Live Traps. The 32-by-18-by-9-inch trap made with 12-gauge wire comes pre-assembled and ready to use. Simply place it in the water partially submerged and bait with fish or meat. When you capture the critter, relocate it to a place that has a water body, food and shelter.

Pond Talk: What types of game fish do you have in your pond or lake?

Trap Unwanted Guests - Tomahawk Turtle Trap

5 Responses

  1. We have a pond that is about 30 feet long, 25 feet wide and roughly 10 feet deep -or it was a few years ago when we had the neighbor’s erosion cleaned out. We have about a dozen big Koi, many many minors, blue gills, sunfish and some catfish. And one humongous snapper we named McKracken. He’s huge!

    He comes up when we are feeding the fish and I toss him a piece of chicken or some raw shrimp. He’s shy in the early season but by mid summer, s/he is coming when we call. I bought some floating turtle food shaped like balls, which he chases. He also eats the fish food.

    We haven’t lost any fish to McKracken and people have offered to ‘git rid of him’ for us –which we refuse to allow.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to get within snapping distance, although I occasionally scrape the moss off his back with a very long stick. It seems we all have adapted to a nice symbiosis.

  2. put a lattice fence around your pond. not the wooden kind. thats what i have around my fish pond. turtles can not get in the pond.

  3. Thank you for the info. Have always thought of them as a pestilence. Not so much now.

  4. Please, please, please do not relocate a snapping turtle unless it is native to your area. (Check with your local agricultural extension or the USFS). Find a rescue organization or your local animal shelter.

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